As any of you who follow this blog’s mutterings on Twitter may remember, I boldly announced my Paleoification of Kung Pao Chicken last Wednesday.
You might also recall that I went on to describe the results of that particular culinary outing as “less than stellar”. To be fair, it was edible. Kind of. Well, I’m still alive, aren’t I?
Everything was going well, until I added the sauce at the end of cooking. Then, I found something out. Tapioca flour has a kind of elastic limit quantity wise when used as a drop-in replacement for corn flour as a thickening agent.
It worked just fine in the marinade, i.e. 1 teaspoon of it. The chicken fried off just as expected. So far, so good.
The amount of tapioca flour in the sauce of that Mk. I version was 2½ teaspoons, which proved to be a tad too much.
A split second after hitting the wok the sauce congealed into a huge rubbery, gloopy glob. It was more like a dissection than a meal. I ate it out of pure spite.
I hate it when things don’t work as expected in the kitchen. I was determined to get this recipe right – it was one of our pre-Paleo favourites, and I was anxious for it to make a return to our table. Cue the Mk. II version, this one.
I figured that the sensible option was simply to omit the tapioca flour from the sauce, and at the same time scale back the amount of liquid used.
Worked like a charm. Spot on.
Paleo Kung Pao Chicken
- 2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 Scotch Bonnet / Habanero chilli pepper, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp sake – see Notes
- 1 large handful, dry roasted cashews
- 3 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
- coconut oil
- A few coriander (cilantro) leaves, to garnish
FOR THE MARINADE
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp fish sauce – see Notes
- 2 tsp sake – see Notes
- 1 tsp tapioca flour
- ½ the white of 1 egg, lightly beaten
FOR THE SAUCE
- Prepare the marinade. Place the salt, fish sauce, sake, and beaten egg white in a large mixing bowl. Stir well. Add the 1 tsp of tapioca flour, and stir well once more, until the tapioca flour has fully dissolved and there are no lumps left. Add the prepared chicken to the marinade. Mix very well, ensuring that the chicken is evenly coated with the marinade. Set aside for around 15 minutes or so.
- Prepare the sauce. Place the fish sauce, sambal oelek, lemon juice, coconut sugar, and water in a small bowl. Mix well, and set aside.
- Heat 2 tbsp of coconut oil over medium heat in a non-stick wok. Add the chillies and ginger. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add the spring onions (scallions). Stir fry for 1 minute more.
- Add the garlic, and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken to the wok, and stir fry until the chicken is cooked through – the chicken pieces should be white in the middle when cut in half – depending on the size of the chicken pieces and the temperature of the wok this should take anywhere between 3 and 5 minutes.
- Add the sake, and the dry roasted cashews. Stir well, and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the sauce, and continue to stir fry until it has thickened somewhat – this should take about a minute or so at most.
- Remove the wok, and place the Kung Pao into a serving bowl. Garnish with the coriander (cilantro) leaves. Serve, with egg fried cauliflower rice, or zucchini noodles.
Sake – your call, Paleo pal. If it’s off limits to you, simply substitute water, or good quality stock. I wouldn’t normally use it – this is one of the very few dishes ( along with my Yangzhou Lion’s Head Meatballs ) where I make an exception to that rule.
Use a fish sauce that contains only fish, water, and salt. You’re probably best looking in an Asian store for genuine Thai fish sauce, although if you’re in Britain Tesco’s own fish sauce fits the bill. I currently use Thanh Ha Phu Quoc.
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